Jean Piaget or Feud Skinner Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2757 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Children


In the past few decades, theories of cognitive psychology have been applied to many different aspects of modern life. The study of cognitive psychology has been applied to many educational reform efforts that seek to implement new and better methods of teaching children. One such cognitive psychologist, Jean Piaget, is most noted for his studies and philosophy regarding the actions of children. Although he never taught children, Piaget has been hailed as an educator as a result of his many writings on the manner in which children think and learn. Piaget was a Swiss philosopher and psychologist that spent much of his professional life listening to children, watching children and studying the available research on children's actions and thought processes. The main idea underlying Piaget's theory was that children do not think like grownups, and after thousands of interactions with young people often barely old enough to talk, Piaget began to suspect that behind their cute and seemingly illogical utterances were thought processes that had their own kind of order and their own special logic (Pappert, 1999). Piaget's insight opened a new window into the inner workings of the mind, and he developed several new fields of science, including developmental psychology, cognitive theory and what came to be called genetic epistemology (Pappert, 1999). Although Piaget is not as famous as some of the other historic psychologists, his contribution to psychology is irreplaceable.

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The Early Years

Piaget grew up near Lake Neuchatel in a quiet region of French Switzerland; his father was a professor of medieval studies and his mother a strict Calvinist (Pappert, 1999).

Term Paper on Jean Piaget or Feud Skinner Assignment

As a young child he was fascinated by the scientific study of nature, and published his first biology paper on the albino sparrow when he was ten years old. The main reason why he wrote this paper was so that the librarian would stop treating him like a child. When he was 15 years old his work in the area of scientific controversy was published, and his interest in psychology emerged. In Piaget's words, "I had the rare privilege of catching a glimpse of science and what it represented before I went through the philosophical crises of adolescence. The early experience of what these two sets of problems constituted, I am sure, the hidden inspiration for my subsequent activity in psychology (Munari, 1994)." Thus, Piaget's reasoning was that the scientific approach was the only valid way of gaining access to knowledge.

After World War I, Piaget became interested in psychoanalysis and moved to Zurich, where he attended Carl Jung's lectures, and then to Paris to study logic and abnormal psychology. In Paris, Piaget studied children, and that children of the same age made similar errors on true-false intelligence tests. At this time he was working for the co-author of an intelligence scale test, and he was working on standardizing reasoning tests on children in Paris. In the beginning, he mainly studied children in the hospitals, and worked in medical laboratories dealing with sick or handicapped children. Fascinated by their reasoning processes, he began to suspect that the key to human knowledge might be discovered by observing how the child's mind develops (Pappert, 1999). After he returned to Switzerland, he began to study children in their normal surroundings, watching children play, and recorded their words and actions as their minds raced to find reasons for why things are the way they are. In one of his most famous experiments, Piaget asked several children what made the wind. After the children answered, he would ask them how did they know, and after they answered, he would ask them how did they know that made the wind. He would then continue to ask them related questions, and noted that while their answers were not correct according to adult reasoning, their answers were not incorrect either. Piaget noted that classifying their answers as true or false was unacceptable, for it displayed a lack of respect for the child.

Piaget summarized his studies on children stating that "children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from reinventing it themselves (Pappert, 1999)." As a result, Piaget became to believe that intelligence is a form of adapt ion, wherein knowledge is constructed by each individual through the two complimentary processes or assimilation and accommodation. He theorized that as children interact with their physical and social environments, they organize information into groups of interrelated ideas called "schemes (, 2006)." Piaget believed that when children experience something for the first time or something new, they must either assimilate it into an existing scheme or create an entirely new scheme to deal with it. Piaget called his general theoretical framework "genetic epistemology" because he was primarily interested in how knowledge developed in human organisms. He combined philosophy and science, to form cognitive psychology.

Piaget believed that infants are born with schemes operating at birth, where in animals, these reflexes control behavior throughout life. However, in human beings as the infant uses these reflexes to adapt to the environment, these reflexes are quickly replaced with constructed schemes (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). According to Piaget, assimilation is the process of using or transforming the environment so that it can be placed in preexisting cognitive structures. Accommodation is the process of changing cognitive structures in order to accept something from the environment. Both processes are used simultaneously and alternately throughout life; and example of assimilation would be when an infant uses a sucking schema that was developed by sucking on a small bottle when attempting to suck on a larger bottle (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). An example of accommodation would be when the child needs to modify a sucking schema developed by sucking on a pacifier to one that would be successful for sucking on a bottle (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). As schemes become increasingly more complex, they become structures, which in turn are organized in a hierarchical manner, such as from general to specific.

Piaget's Theory in Stages

Piaget believed that development occurred in four stages; sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations. The sensorimotor stage begins at birth, and lasts until the child is 2 years old. In this stage, the child cannot form mental representations of objects that are outside his immediate view, so his intelligence develops through his motor interactions with his environment (, 2006). Intelligence in the preoperational stage occurs when the child is 3 to 7 years old and is intuitive in nature. In the preoperational stage, true thought emerges, and at this stage children are able to make mental representations of unseen objects, but they cannot use deductive reasoning (, 2006). The next stage is the concrete operations stage, which lasts through the age of 11 or 12 years old. Though during this stage is logical but depends upon concrete referents. According to Piaget, in this stage children are able to use deductive reasoning, demonstrate conservation of number, and can differentiate their perspective from that of other people (, 2006). In Piaget's final stage of formal operations, thinking involves abstractions. This stage occurs when the child is up to 15 years old.

A main idea behind Piaget's theory was that increasingly complex mental processes are formulated at a very early stage of development, and this is what later intelligence thoughts are built on. Another important principle of Piaget's theory is that there are genetic constraints inherent in humans ( 2006). In other words, according to Piaget, children cannot be taught into the different stages, as these stages must occur naturally. According to Piaget, a child cannot build new, increasingly complex schemes without interacting with his environment; nature and nurture are inexorably linked (, 2006). Piaget explored the implications of his theory to all aspects of cognition, intelligence and moral development. Many of Piaget's experiments were focused on the development of mathematical and logical concepts (Pappert, 1999). His theory regarding the teaching of mathematics was very clear, and he stated, "mathematical understanding is not a matter of ability in children. It is therefore erroneous to consider the lack of success in mathematics is due to a lack of ability. The mathematical operation derives from action, and it therefore follows that the institutional presentation is not enough. The child itself must act, since the manual operation is necessarily a preparation for the mental one (Munari, 2004)." Piaget's principle of active education has also been applied to other areas of education, from the learning a new language to grammar construction.

Piaget's Influence on Education

Piaget's theory of stages has had a profound influence on education, and his ideas have been at the center of many educational reforms. Attempts have even been made to correlate performance on Piagetian conservation tasks with standardized intelligence test scores, and the results have been mixed (, 2006). Piaget's form of standardized testing varies greatly from the typical standardized tests. For example, in Piaget's standardized tests, in addition… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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